Friday, Oct 31st, 2014

I’m not conned by Copenhagen

The feeling that a potentially powerful global movement is being hijacked by some very slick PR is keeping me away from Denmark. The talk around and within the conference seems to be an exercise in appearing to make a difference without actually changing a damn thing

By on Friday, December 11th, 2009 - 425 words.

Belgium EU SummitMore than 50,000 members of the “I Only Fly to India” militia will descend on Copenhagen over the next week to demonstrate over a shopping list of demands longer than J-Lo’s rider. Attendees are an international who’s who of the best-branded campaign groups from Oxfam and ActionAid to those superglue and D-lock specialists Plane Stupid. Lesser-known groups like Brazil’s Land Reform Movement will be there to boost everyone’s ethnic credentials. Nothing like rolling out some non-white, non-middle-class people in front of the cameras to add strength to your cause.

Developed countries like the US and the UK have pledged to cut carbon emissions (on their terms) by 2020 alongside developing nations like China and India cutting their carbon intensity (on someone else’s terms). The finer points over who does what by how much and who’s going to police 192 countries will also be debated.

A sore point has already come up with the leak to the Guardian of the “Danish text” – a draft agreement that gives rich nations more power, marginalises the UN’s role and abandons the Kyoto protocol. All the jaw-jaw about making a difference to the world’s global temperature becomes hot air in the cold Copenhagen wind.

The feeling that a potentially powerful global movement is being hijacked by some very slick PR is keeping me away from Denmark. The talk around and within the conference seems to be an exercise in appearing to make a difference without actually changing a damn thing.

Initiatives like the 10:10 campaign (which recently accepted the arms manufacturer MBDA on to its scheme with the lines: “Of course arms manufacturers can reduce their emissions by 10%. What they do with the rest of their time is a different matter, on which we couldn’t possibly comment”) ask individuals and companies to pledge to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010. I had a recent debate with a 10:10 employee who failed to see the hypocrisy in cosying up to a firm whose business it is to make things that kill people.

But if it makes you feel better about yourself turning off a few lights and flushing the loo only for solids, just be aware that the bandwagon you’re joining broke down a long time ago and your co-operation is helping corporations wash their sins away in the green haze of a well-run publicity campaign.

What’s needed is justice. Fair rights and fair pay for workers, and bold international policing of commerce and corporate structures. Grass roots movements that tackle tangible goals, not semantic abstract concepts. Proper justice. Not branded climate justice.

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Leah Borromeo

Leah Borromeo is a London-based journalist and filmmaker currently directing a series of short films on arts activism for Channel 4’s “Random Acts” and hosts Resonance FM’s “The Left Bank Show”. She has desk-jockeyed as Deputy Foreign Editor at Sky News, fawned over Jon Snow’s bad jokes at Channel 4 News, and stood around a satellite truck looking important for APTN. In addition to a host of freelance commissions on arts, politics and civil liberties for the likes of Amnesty International and the Index on Censorship, she's 'the biggest show off since Lady Godiva turned up in town on a horse claiming she had literally NOTHING to wear'.

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